14 Nov 2011

PNG ministers fail to show up at court, ordered to attend tomorrow

7:46 pm on 14 November 2011

The Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea has refused to hear a motion to throw out arrest warrants for the deputy prime minister and attorney general, after the pair failed to show up to court.

The Deputy Prime Minister Belden Namah and the Attorney-General Allan Marat were arrested and almost immediately bailed today after the Supreme Court last week issued an order for their arrest on contempt of court charges.

A visibly displeased Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia says the contempt case against them will be heard on December the 12th while they are wanted in court tomorrow to explain the suspension charge against him.

The government has alleged the chief justice mismanaged court finances, was involved in dodgy dealings in the handling of a former judge's estate, as well as unnamed conflicts of interest.

Sir Salamo is currently presiding over an ongoing battle into the legitimacy of the Peter O'Neill government, which took power on August 2nd in a parliamentary move that saw the government of Sir Michael Somare ousted.

That verdict is due on December the 9th.

Mr O'Neill and Mr Namah have issued statements alleging the charges against the Chief Justice date back to 2009.

Police have confirmed they attempted to interview Sir Salamo last year, but the chief justice took out a "restraining order for life" on the matter.


Ron May from the Australia National University says the PNG government appears to have made another attempt to stop the Supreme Court challenge against the election of the O'Neill government.

"Namah is a bit of a cowboy I think and whether he has done this without consultation with O'Neill, I'm not sure. But it really does look as though the government is trying to assert its authority over the judiciary, and up till now, the judiciary has been one of the essentially better-working institutions in government and has maintained its independence fairly vigorously."

Ron May says the situation is unprecedented and the constitutionality of the suspension remains unclear.


A senior PNG cabinet minister has defended the government's move to suspend Sir Salamo.

The Minister for National Planning Sam Basil dismisses claims that the executive is interfering in the judiciary.

The Chief Justice still sit on the panel and will still deliver his decision so there is no interference there that we can see. We're just making sure that we're fighting corruption and every office holder needs to answer for their doings while in power. And I think this is basically what we're doing: getting people and office holders being accountable.

Sam Basil


PNG's former acting prime minister Sam Abal has urged the national executive council to rescind its decision to suspend Sir Salamo.

Sam Abal says the timing of the move was highly questionable.

I would advise the NEC not to fight with the judiciary. Let's leave the judiciary alone. They only interpret the laws that we make and we as lawmakers should not be seen by the public to go against and to break laws even. We must respect judiciary to do their job.

Sam Abal.